Nicholas’ Nut-Free Christmas: A Book Review

Recently, new author Danielle Lynn reached out to see if she could send me a copy of her first book, Nicholas’ Nut-Free Christmas. I was thrilled for the opportunity to read it. I love to read and have read to my children as they’ve grown up so I’m almost always up for a good read.

The bonus about this children’s book is that it also addresses food allergies, and in an incredibly positive manner. Lynn’s book focuses on a third-grade boy named Nicholas who has food allergies and is facing some significant challenges as Christmas quickly approaches including a class party and a visit to grandma’s.

In my opinion, what makes Nicholas’ story special is his attitude. We all, those with and without food allergies, face challenges in life. It is simply a part of life. The secret to handling those difficulties is our attitude toward them. This is something Nicholas has a remarkable handle on and it is a lesson I think many children with food allergies can benefit from hearing. His actions can empower readers to take control of a food allergy situation in a positive manner without letting it become a hindrance in how they live their lives.

In each challenge the young boy faces, he actively problem solves to find a way past the trial. He does not focus on the unfairness of the situation or let it dictate how he lives his best life. I stinkin’ love that. This kid just sees a bump in the road and sets out to fix it without ever looking back. Even as an adult, this is a lesson I need to be reminded of from time to time.

As a side note, although the book is geared toward Christmas, I do think it would be a good read year round as the situations Nicholas faces are indicative of many different holidays and even everyday situations.

If you are looking for a positive read to share with a child with food allergies, friends of a child with food allergies, a school classroom, or a library, I highly recommend Danielle Lynn’s Nicholas’ Nut-Free Christmas. The book is a breath of fresh air in tackling a serious problem with a healthy measure of positivity and a double dose of a can-do attitude.

Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated for this review and the thoughts within this post reflect my honest thoughts and opinions.

Happy 10th Birthday to The Food Allergy Mom Blog

Today is a special occasion! It marks ten years of blogging for The Food Allergy Mom.

For ten years I have sat at my computer staring down a blank cursor in hopes the words will flow so I can show another parent on this same food allergy journey that they are not alone and that things aren’t as bleak as they may seem on the day your child gets a diagnosis and you walk out of that office with a prescription for an epinephrine injector.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

And because I know it’s impossible to get anywhere all on your own, it is so important for me to take today’s blog post to thank some of the people who have been an integral part of my blogging journey:

Stephanie Sorkin, Author. My friend, I am so thankful for you for entrusting me with Nutley, The Nut-Free Squirrel. That book has been loved well and shared often with family, friends, and classmates. Most of all, thank you for always cheering me on and being such a positive influence.

Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH. I had the good fortune of crossing paths with Dr. Ruchi Gupta several times over the years and I can tell you it is always a pleasure. As a board certified pediatrician and health researcher, Dr. Gupta works tirelessly to develop policies dealing with pediatric asthma and food allergies. She is intelligent, relatable, calming, and has a huge heart for what she does and the people she helps. Her contributions to the study of food allergy and asthma have positively impacted thousands of lives, including mine and my son’s.

Sloane Miller, Author and Food Allergy Advocate. I’ve met this amazing lady in person and her determination to not let food allergies define her or hinder how she lives life is contagious. As the mom of a young child, I read her book Allergic Girl and saw (maybe for the first time) an individual with food allergies who still lived her life well. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is a reminder that food allergies is not who we are, it is just a part of the journey. Her can-do attitude has inspired me and encouraged me to want the same for my son and my readers.

Food Allergy Research & Education. Back when I began this journey they were known as FAAN, but regardless of the name change, FARE has always been an excellent resource for me. It is THE place to start when you or a child is diagnosed. Thank you for being a part of the very first steps of mine and my son’s journey just as you still are today.

My son’s allergist. I remember walking into his office like it was yesterday. I don’t remember much of what happened that day out of the sheer shock of the diagnosis and fear of all that I had to quickly learn. What I DO remember is the calm and steady hand he offered when things were tough and the way he valued and listened to me as a parent. He has cheered me on every step of the way with my blog and at each appointment he has a new topic for me to consider writing about.

H-E-B. In Texas, H-E-B is by far my favorite grocery store. Not only have they been a friend to my community during times of great hardship, they carry a variety of products safe for me and my son. I actually saw our local H-E-B representative, Scott McClelland, in the store once and quickly introduced myself before going on to shop. Almost a half hour later, he chased me down in the store to personally hand me some complimentary, safe cookies he thought I would enjoy…on the house. I was stunned at his kindness and care for a customer he did not know. Several years later, Scott and H-E-B were kind enough to sponsor me for participation in several food allergy and gluten-free fests. I will be forever grateful for that support. I am an H-E-B shopper for life.

My readers. Without you, my blog is just words on a page floating around the internet. I have loved meeting you in person, reading your emails, and reading your comments. I read every email and comment I receive. Each one of them have made me a part of who I am as a blogger today. For that, I thank you!

My son. He was diagnosed almost sixteen years ago and he continues to amaze me every single day. He has taken his food allergy and asthma journey in stride, careful to never let it keep him from doing the things he loves. He’s managed it all while being part of middle school and high school sports teams, Boy Scouts, camping trips, vacations, and so so much more. I’m honored to be his mom and am so proud of him. I’m especially grateful to him for letting me write and share about so many of our experiences so we can help others.

I hope that whether you have food allergies or are the caregiver of a child with food allergies, you find some people along the way that build you up and support you the way these people have for me. Let me be the first…you are not alone and you CAN do this.

Blessings, friends! And thanks for indulging me today with a celebration and some special thank you’s.

Participation In Boy Scouts Can Yield Important Life Lessons For Food Allergies

Earlier this month, the food allergy community was buzzing about a news story regarding a young teen in Boy Scouts that reportedly experienced anaphylaxis while exploring Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Thankfully the young man is said to have now recovered from the incident thanks to some fast thinking scouts and scout leaders that quickly administered epinephrine and called for help from local emergency and medical professionals.  I am so grateful the young man is okay!

To be honest, I generally try to avoid news stories spun to invoke fear, not because I want to stick my head in the sand but because fear can hold an individual hostage if they let it.  For some reason, this story felt different and it struck a chord with me for several reasons:

  1.  I am the proud mom of a Boy Scout.
  2.  We have repeatedly hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  3.  Fear was not the headline.  Being prepared in all situations to affect positive outcomes was.

My son is quickly approaching sixteen and was diagnosed with multiple food allergies around age one.  For years we struggled as a family to keep him safe until he was old enough to also advocate for himself.  As time progressed, my son was outgrowing the “bubble” of home and began moving on to preschool, public school, and extra curricular activities.

He joined Cub Scouts in elementary school.  It was a huge adjustment getting used to scout dinners, gatherings, and campouts.  Fortunately, my husband volunteered to be involved as a Scout leader and was able to be at many meetings and campouts.  This allowed him to teach my son not to avoid challenges, but how to navigate them with vigilance, safe food, and access to emergency medication.  Then my son “graduated” Cub Scouts and would soon be moving up to Boy Scouts.

As a mom, I had to re-evaluate what worked for my tween son and my family and, for us, that meant giving him the freedom to live a normal kid life…all while taking proper precautions to keep him safe.  I’d be lying if it was as easy for me to accept as it was to write that sentence.  It is still a daily battle between my heart and my head to realize that I can do my best to teach my son how to be cautious and vigilant with his food allergies, but I cannot control everything.  Spoiler alert…none of us can.

With the arrival of middle school, my son transitioned to Boy Scouts.  This transition was a whole new ballgame.  We are talking monthly multi-day campouts anywhere from one to five hours away where the boys cook their own food, pitch their own tents, and go on hiking and boating expeditions.  Can you say comfort zone obliterated?

My husband continued to volunteer with scouts, but served more in an administrative role than shadowing my son’s every move.  One of the amazing side benefits of being a Boy Scout is that you begin to take on a greater level of independence and responsibility for yourself and others.  After all, that is a big part of growing up.

Look at me calmly spouting sage wisdom about independence and growing up.  Don’t let the cavalier tone fool you.  Any food allergy/asthma wisdom I gain is usually hard earned because of a challenge I and my son went head to head with and came out of on the other side.

In this case, that challenge looked like sending my son on a seven hour canoe trip down the Guadalupe River where he would not be right next door to the emergency services of a hospital and would be relying on MREs (meals ready to eat).  It looked like sending my son to summer camp nine hours away to a remote scout camp in west Texas and a week long summer camp for at least the next four years.  It meant hours of preparation in terms of medical forms, safe snacks, meal recon, and more.

I was neither stoic or ignorant about these challenges, but with each I came a step closer to accepting the slow realization that these situations are the exact things I’ve worked years to prepare him for.  I can’t walk by his side forever and slay every dragon in his path.  I have to lead by example, teach him the best I can, and then trust him to safely make his own way.  His own way isn’t always perfect, but that is okay too because it keeps complacency at bay and often turns mistakes into valuable life lessons.

Because of the lessons we both learned with his newfound independence through Scouts, we felt empowered to seek out hiking adventures in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Did my hiking bag weigh a few extra pounds because I loaded every epinephrine device we own in it?  You betcha.  Did we pack the inhaler and several cases of safe snacks?  You know it.  Did I perhaps lose a little sleep thinking about how things would work if there was a reaction on the trail despite our best efforts?  The circles under my eyes frequently answered that question.

But you know what?  We planned the best we could and we did it.  Not just one hike but several.  And we’ve done it again many more times since.

We do not think ourselves impervious to disaster by any means, but we do know that if we stop summoning our wit and bravery when adventures comes knocking, we are not living life but are simply tolerating it.

Awesome Bites Co. To Open A Houston Storefront This Spring

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Jennifer Thai.  The mom of a child with food allergies, she decided safe and delicious food should be more than a necessity.  It should be a joy!  Jennifer decided if she couldn’t find food to fit the bill, she would make it herself.  And she did.

And then some.

Later this spring, Awesome Bites Co. will open up a storefront in Houston which will allow Jennifer to share her gift in the kitchen with thousands of Houstonians.  Help me wish her all the best and be sure to check out her store when it opens!

Blessings,

Kimberly

*Disclosure:  I received no monetary compensation for this post.  The opinions above are my own.  The following press release and picture below were provided to me courtesy of Jennifer Thai.

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Awesome Bites Co. Brings Magically Healthy Baked Goods to Houston 

Houston, TX – February 18, 2019 – After selling more than 100,000 Super Muffins – the nation’s only muffins made with whole fruits and vegetables instead of sugar – at farmers markets, Awesome Bites Co. is excited to bring their magically healthy treats to their first brick and mortar location in the Heights at Sawyer Yards in April 2019. More than two years were spent perfecting recipes for healthy baked goods that actually taste so delicious even the pickiest toddler won’t realize the nutritious ingredients hidden inside. Along with their popular Super Muffins, and brownies and blondies made with organic beans, Awesome Bites’ expansion into a new storefront will feature some new surprises like handcrafted, allergy friendly, and lactose free ice cream plus gluten free waffle cones.

Dedicated to creating better and safer delicious treats for all, Awesome Bites’ allergy friendly baked goods push traditional pastry boundaries by replacing eggs, butter, and refined sugar with clean, premium, non-GMO ingredients without sacrificing taste. An estimated one in 13 children in the United States now have food allergies that result in visits to the emergency room every three minutes[i] and more schools implementing nut free policies. The addition of an allergy friendly establishment in Houston to keep its community safe and healthy is long overdue. Awesome Bites Co. is committed to fulfilling this need by reinventing treats and creating an allergy friendly, 100% plant based, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free menu.

“What sets us apart is not just removing a particular ingredient from our treats; our entire menu and facility is completely free of dairy, egg, soy, peanuts and tree nuts[ii]. Even our ingredients, which took over a year to source, are free of potential cross contamination,” said Jennifer Thai, founder and chief innovator of the Awesome Bites Co. “Creating allergy friendly treats is a complex process requiring an unwavering commitment to food safety.”

Beyond being allergy friendly, Awesome Bites Co. creations are perfect for anyone looking for healthy and convenient snacks for themselves or their kids. They also meet a variety of dietary needs as all treats are vegan and free of cholesterol, lactose, casein, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. Gluten free and no added sugar options are available as well. Awesome Bites’ magical treats will include:

  • No added sugar Super Muffins in a variety of flavors like the best-selling Oatmeal Chocolate Chip muffin, which is sweetened only with yellow squash, sweet potato, pears, apples, coconut and dates. Each pack of four mini muffins boast a full serving of fruits/vegetables.
  • Gluten free and vegan blondies and brownies made with organic chickpeas and black beans for an extra boost of protein and fiber.
  • The country’s only top eight allergen free, refined sugar free cookie cake, which pairs perfectly with scratch made, dairy free and nut free, coconut flaxseed mylk.
  • Allergy friendly and vegan ice cream served with gluten-free waffle cones.
  • Made-in-house syrups and nitro cold brew from Houston’s Boomtown coffee.

“We launched Awesome Bites when I couldn’t find safe healthy foods that my daughter, who had food allergies, would actually want to eat. At Awesome Bites, we’re beyond allergy friendly or healthy. We are focused on inclusion and pioneering, one-of-a-kind clean treats that everyone – with or without food allergies – can eat together worry-free,” said Thai. 

Awesome Bites Co. was the winner of the 2016 City of Houston’s Lift Off Business Plan Competition and fan favorite award. “I had the opportunity to try the muffins from Awesome Bites and they were delicious. I was amazed that all of the ingredients were natural and included no added sugars. I wish Ms. Thai continued success,” stated Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The new 1,600 sq ft. brick-and-mortar will open in April 2019 at the highly anticipated Sawyer Yards (2313 Edwards St. Ste 185, Houston, TX 77007) and includes a patio for customers to enjoy their treats.

 

About Jennifer Thai

Jennifer Thai is a born and raised Houstonian, who graduated from Rice University with a BA in Economics and received her MBA from Duke University. She devoted more than two years inventing the recipes for Awesome Bites’ baked goodies, and five years building the nation’s first allergy friendly, health conscious bakery and ice cream shop. She trained with Max Torres of Houston’s Cake & Bacon as well as the popular Austin vegan ice cream shop, Sweet Ritual.